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The Big Picture

December 27, 2011

The Big Picture View In Sedona

One of my dearest friends taught me something I have to re-learn every year:  it’s hard to create the life or the organization you want if you don’t remind yourself of The Big Picture often.

I recently traveled out west for a few days to visit her. Standing on top of a Sedona cliff, I was reminded again of The Big Picture—viewing life from the perspective of the whole, while also seeing each stone and pebble along the path, knowing each has its own purpose in building that larger, more beautiful scene.

The space for reflection isn’t always easy to find.  Our society in general designates the holidays as the time to live more closely with what really matters—whatever that may be for each of us. In part, it could be born of necessity.  After all, if it weren’t for the details of life, we would only dream but accomplish little.

This final week of the year affords us the opportunity to get in synch with The Big Picture, winding down and reflecting on the year we’ve just traveled through while planning what we hope to create for ourselves and our nonprofit in the New Year. Big Picture thinking reminds us of who we are, what we’re here to do and where we stand against the yardstick of our own self-measurement.

Maybe I’m biased, but I think most nonprofit staff and board members have chosen to work in this sector because they see The Big Picture more often than others.  It’s been inspiring to meet so many people over the last 6 years whose caring has little to do with what their jobs may be. Rather, they’ve chosen their jobs with intention because the mission is engrained in them.

I see The Giving Partner as an entrée into The Big Picture for donors and our community. It’s easy for them to get lost in the sea of e-mails, appeals and PSAs for our many separate causes. Who’s doing what?  How is one organization different from another? And how is our community a better place because of the different but connected charitable work?

Your organization is the sum total of your dedicated board, your devoted staff, your financial stability, the meaningful programs you offer, and you how leverage resources to reach your mission. What’s the big sky view? It’s your impact and the difference you’re making in the community.  That’s the beauty you see when you look out from the cliff.

Our donors are eager for the community vistas made possible through The Giving Partner for three reasons. Using this new tool, they can:

  1. View The Big Picture of our entire charitable community from one base.
  2. Understand your organization’s Big Picture impact in your own words, without the filter of foundation staff and what we may happen to remember about your nonprofit.
  3. Access your nonprofit’s greatest needs and help where you need it most, based on your priorities and The Big Picture as you see it.

Several nonprofit staff working on their agencies’ profiles have told us they, too, have a new level of awareness about The Big Picture of their agency as well as the individual parts that make it possible.

Our wish for you is a week of more freedom and reflection to think about the view you want to see along the cliff-side path next year this time when you step back to breathe a little.

Thank you for the difference you make! Happy New Year.

-Susie Bowie, Director, The Giving Partner
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

SpidermanThat’s my cute little nephew dressed up as Spiderman.  I love the feeling of power he feels when racing around the house in his costume.

Remember when Spiderman’s grandfather dished some advice to his budding superhero grandson? “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Sounds familiar and very relevant to this world of transparency we’re being asked to embrace. It’s a little scary, but we know it’s where the world is heading.

When donors invest their dollars in nonprofits–whether it’s $10 or $1,000,000–we are entrusted with great power.  Our promise goes beyond being ethical in our business practices and using dollars for the intended purpose. At the end of the day, it is our obligation to do everything possible to transform their investments into positive community impact and to let them know how we’re accomplishing that work.

That responsibility can be overwhelming at times, whether we represent a grassroots agency with a small budget or a multi-million dollar foundation. But telling our story is on our end of the deal.

We’re fortunate to live in a community with so much wealth.  In Sarasota County alone, the two largest community foundations in the state are making grants in the millions each year.  Together, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Manatee Community Foundationwith support from The Patterson Foundation–are answering the call for what donors want: knowledge about the charitable community to help them make more informed decisions about their giving.

Through The Giving Partner, we’re sharing our responsibility to be transparent and we are encouraging all nonprofits to step up to the challenge. By providing key answers to questions about management, governance, finances and programmatic impact, we are empowering donors with the knowledge they have been asking for.

As community foundation staff, we can rely less on what our personal biases and memories may convey about your organization, and more on what you’d like to share with donors–in your own words.  From your needs to your program successes, from your leadership to your strategy, your story belongs to you.  We’re so appreciative of the ambassador nonprofits who have taken this challenge and have some very compelling profiles in The Giving Partner to show for it.

From now until the public launch in Spring 2012, we’ll be hard at work with nonprofits to build a web of 100 profiles that will help donors and the community understand just how much we impact the quality of life in Southwest Florida.

Can we count you in?  A world of heroes waiting to invest in your nonprofit awaits.

-Susie Bowie, Director, The Giving Partner
Community Foundation of Sarasota County